CPC approves creation of commission, expands its options
After more than two and half hours of debate and discussion, the Lafayette City-Parish Council approved by a 5-4 vote a substitute ordinance creating a charter commission with greater leeway in what it recommends, including the recommendation that the City-Parish Home Rule Charter be repealed and Lafayette return to dual city and parish forms of government that were in effect before 1996.
As expected, the discussion, debate and the votes — on amendments to the substitute ordinance and on the ordinance itself — were largely along city and parish lines; the five city-majority council members comprising a simple majority on the nine-member CPC voted in unison. Sponsored by District 4 Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux, the ordinance that passed Tuesday night replaces the original ordinance creating a charter commission that was submitted by District 2 Councilman Jay Castille. That original ordinance only gave the charter commission discretion to review and recommend amendments to the Home Rule Charter, but not to recommend repeal.
Jared Bellard (District 5) and William Theriot (District 9) were the most outspoken parish-majority council members to oppose the substitute ordinance. Both have repeatedly stated their opposition to deconsolidation.
Citing a litany of “best of” lists the city of Lafayette has landed on in the last couple of years, Bellard took an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” tack in attacking the substitute ordinance and the very concept of deconsolidation: “So what is wrong, what is so broke with this government with all this great information?” he asked. “I would just like to know what is wrong with this current form of government.”
Theriot channelled American history, bookending his initial input on the matter with the rhetorical offering, “United we stand, divided we fall.” But Theriot may have been the most prescient of the bunch with his observation, “Do you want to know the true reason this debate is taking place? Preservation of political power.”
Boudreaux’s substitute ordinance also shortens the time the commission will have to work from 18 months to nine, a contraction that Bellard likened through his repeated use of the word “shove” to recent legislation on health care reform in Congress.
But ultimately the city men cleaved to the argument that the substitute amendment is not about deconsolidation, it is merely about expanding the purview of the charter commission and, ultimately, letting parish voters decide. “What is wrong with expanding the scope of what we’re asking the people to do?” Boudreaux asked of his parish colleagues.
The charter commission that will be created will now be unfettered in what it can recommend — anything from minor adjustments to the current charter to repeal of the current charter to total consolidation of the parish, that is, dismantling the governments in the smaller municipalities and going “whole hog,” as District 7 Councilman Don Bertrand is fond of saying. City Parish President Joey Durel said at the meeting that he doesn’t anticipate deconsolidation arising from the commission’s work. “I would be stunned if their first move was to repeal consolidation,” he told council members.
The way the commission will be selected is also a departure from Castille’s original ordinance. District 3 Councilman Brandon Shelvin offered an amendment to Boudreaux’s substitute ordinance allowing all nine council members voting together to appoint seven of the nine commission members — four from the city and three from unincorporated Lafayette Parish; and to let Durel appoint one commission member from the city and one from the unincorporated part of the parish. Castille’s ordinance gave four appointments to the city-majority members, three to the parish-majority members and two to Durel, with the city and parish council members voting as separate bodies. Bellard expressed concern that Shelvin’s commission-appointment amendment would stack the commission in favor of the city, nonetheless, it passed by a 5-4 vote with all five city-majority council members voting for the amendment.
District 1 Councilman Purvis Morrison also proposed an amendment requiring the commission, if it recommends repeal of the charter, to create alternative charters for the parish and the city. That amendment was approved by a 6-3 vote, with Morrison joining the city men on the vote.
MAY 20 This post by blogger CB Forgotston draws parallels between Gov. Bobby Jindal and two individuals he probably doesn't want to be aligned with: President Obama and former governor Edwin Edwards. CB says Jindal's trying to jack up the debt ceiling (an Obama play, according to CB) and buy votes from GOP leges who normally wouldn't go for that (an Edwards play, CB says).
MAY 20 Here's a post in the Baptist Message from an alumnus of Louisiana College. The author, Larry Burgess, calls on the leadership of the private school to take care of some pressing problems. Physical plant issues are critical and unaddressed, some faculty make so little they need government health care, and there is an atmosphere that does not encourage honest discussion, he writes. It's time to get things back in order, he says.
MAY 20 This post in Gambit tells of a benefit concert scheduled to raise money for the 19 people shot during a Mother's Day second line on Frenchmen Street in NOLA. Among them was Gambit blogger Deb Cotton, who spoke frequently about violence in the city and reported on the city's second line culture. Gambit's foundation, along with other NOLA non-profits, also is selling t-shirts to raise money for the victims.
MAY 20 Blogger Robert Mann is critical of the personal interest some legislators take in their work here, sharing the comments one NOLA solon made in explaining his decision to vote against a bill that would require people to stop discriminating against female workers. His wife might lose some salary, so he was going to have to vote against the equal pay bill, Conrad Appel said. Appel and everyone who heard him should have been ashamed, but they weren't, and that's what is wrong in that building, Mann argues.
MAY 20 American Press columnist Jim Beam writes about the budget again here, urging kudos for the House and its efforts to try to fix the budget as opposed to passing on a flawed and messy rubber-stamped document as it usually does. The Senate already is poo-pooing the effort, but instead Senators should be trying to find a way to improve it as well, Beam argues. He also has some predictions in here from LABI and CABL.
MAY 20 Here's a link to the photo gallery from Tulane's graduation this past weekend. Dr. John and Allen Toussaint played together and received honorary degrees. The Dalai Lama was so entranced by their performance he got up from his seat and walked across the stage to stand next to them. He even participated in a second line with his own personal, saffron-colored umbrella. To the graduates, he urged them to think about creating a peaceful, hopeful life and society.
MAY 20 This Picayune story questions the rhetoric of NOLA officials who say the city, aside from having a "murder problem," is safe. The talking points generally are that the criminals are killing each other, but everything else is OK. The police chief there says that even Lafayette is more dangerous than NOLA. But crime experts interviewed here say that NOLA's numbers indicate one of two things: either people are so used to violence they don't report it, or somebody's "fudging the numbers."
MAY 20 The Advocate's Mark Ballard writes about some of the background maneuvering that took place during the development of budget alternatives in the Legislature. From Rep. Joel Robideaux being called a "tax and spend liberal" to robo-call influence, Ballard lets us in on some of the work that happens behind the scenes but usually doesn't make it into the Advocate's daily coverage of the session.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.